Airborne Lidar Measurements of Atmospheric Column CO2 Concentration to Cloud Tops
Abstract:Globally distributed atmospheric CO2 measurements with high precision, low bias and full seasonal sampling are crucial to advance carbon cycle sciences. However, two thirds of the Earth’s surface is typically covered by clouds, and passive remote sensing approaches from space, e.g., OCO-2 and GOSAT, are limited to cloud-free scenes. They are unable to provide useful retrievals in cloudy areas where the photon path-length can’t be well characterized. Thus, passive approaches have limited global coverage and poor sampling in cloudy regions, even though some cloudy regions have active carbon surface fluxes.
NASA Goddard is developing a pulsed integrated-path, differential absorption (IPDA) lidar approach to measure atmospheric column CO2 concentrations from space as a candidate for NASA’s ASCENDS mission. Measurements of time-resolved laser backscatter profiles from the atmosphere also allow this technique to estimate column CO2 and range to cloud tops in addition to those to the ground with precise knowledge of the photon path-length. This allows retrievals of column CO2 concentrations to cloud tops, providing much higher spatial coverage and some information about vertical structure of CO2. This is expected to benefit atmospheric transport process studies, carbon data assimilation in models, and global and regional carbon flux estimation.
We show some preliminary results of the all-sky retrieval capability using airborne lidar measurements from the 2011, 2013 and 2014 ASCENDS airborne campaigns on the NASA DC-8. These show retrievals of atmospheric CO2 over low-level marine stratus clouds, cumulus clouds at the top of planetary boundary layer, some mid-level clouds and visually thin high-level cirrus clouds. The CO2 retrievals from the lidar are validated against in-situ measurements and compared to Goddard PCTM model simulations. Lidar cloud slicing to derive CO2 abundance in the planetary boundary layer and free troposphere also has been demonstrated. The capability of future lidar missions to measure CO2 above clouds will be particularly valuable for the regions with persistent cloud covers, e.g, the Intertropical Convergence Zone, the west coasts of continents with marine layer clouds and the Southern Ocean, which has the highest occurrence of low-level clouds.